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A CurtainUp Feature: Playwrights
An Overview of Annie Baker's Career

Annie Baker
Topics Covered
Personal and Career Background
Awards And Honors
Links To Reviews
Quotes From and about Baker's Work

Personal and Career Background
Annie Baker was born in Boston in 1981. She grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts with her single mother, a psychologist. As stated in an interview, they spent every evening sitting at the kitchen table, "dissecting our emotions and speculating about the inner life of everyone we knew." Baker graduated from the Department of Dramatic Writing at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. and earned an MFA from Brooklyn College.

She took a 3-year hiatus from playwriting when she was 22 because she felt her writing was going badly as a result of her attempt to write more conventionally, to accommodate the popular short formats like the 90-minute, intermissionless play.

Since going back her plays, which usually follow a two-year period of letting things perculate in her head her plays have been produced throughout the U.S. at South Coast Rep, the Guthrie, Victory Gardens, Artists Rep, Huntington Theater Company, Seattle Rep, Studio Theatre in DC, Hyde Park Theatre, Kansas City Rep, Marin Theater Company, A Red Orchid, and over 100 other regional theaters. Her work has also been produced in England, Australia, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, Latvia, Sweden and Russia. She haves enjoyed an unusually close collaborative partnership with director Sam Gold They began their careers independent of each other. Baker studied dramatic writing at New York University and Brooklyn College, and Body Awareness, her debut play at the Atlantic Theater Company in 2008 was directed by Karen Kohlhaas. Gold grew up in Westchester and attended Cornell University and the Juilliard School, assisted the Wooster Group for several years before directing The Black Eyed” at New York Theater Workshop. While Gold directs both old and new other plays, everything Baker has done since that first play has been helmed by him. His understanding of what she intends is widely credited with the acceptance of her work.

Awards And Honors
Her 2008 Body Awareness was nominated for a Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award. . . . the 2009 Circle Mirror Transformation received the Obie Award for Best New American Play and Performance.. . . The 2010 The Aliens was a finalist for the 2010 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and shared the 2010 Obie Award for Best New American Play with Circle Mirror Transformation. The Flick received the Obie Award for Playwriting in 2013 and won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

In 2015 she became a Residency Five playwright at the Signature Theater and a member of New Dramatists, MCC’s Playwrights Coalition. See the Awards and Honors Other honors include a New York Drama Critics Circle Award, USA Artists Collins Fellowship, Lilly Award, and a Time Warner Storytelling Fellowship.

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All of Baker's early plays were set in the fictional town of Shirley, Vermont. However, unlike Horton Foote he returned to his fictionalized version of his Texas hometown play after play, Ms. Baker is not bent on staying in this one locale. In fact, she's been quoted as being determined to leave this setting behind her. If anything, I was the opposite of most college students who think they can do anything. That said, growing up in a small town strong effects her writing to this day. As she has explained this "I think growing up in a small town, the kind of people I met in my small town, they still haunt me. I find myself writing about them over and over again.

Whether in a Shirley or not, Baker's story telling is known for its hyper realism. It's a style that initially seems untheatrical since the dialogue comes off like overheard conversations. Like Pinter she imbues that dialogue with lengthy pauses, but unlike the Pinteresque pause, the Bakeresque pause is not intended to convey a sense of menace but embodies her interest in silence . . .what happens when people aren't talking on stage. This slow, pause filled style is also her way of letting actors play and do things between lines.

And so, while her method appears untheatrical, it is very precise and uses all the tools employed by contemporaries whose works tend to be closer to 90 minutes with no intermission than Baker's at times marathon lengths — like the 3-hour-plus long Flick and John.

Baker is also not afraid to buck the trend to cater to the popular 90-minute intermissionless play hto accommodate all those pauses; to wit, the 3-hour plus Flick, nabbed a Pulitzer, and the 2015 John, garnered top notch reviews even though it ran just as long.

Links to Plays Reviewed
Aliens (2010)
Antipodes (2017)
Body Awareness (208)
The Flick (2013)
Circle Mirror Transformation (2009)
John (2018 DC)
John (2015)
Uncle Vanya (adaptation (2012)

Quotes From and about Baker's Work
If you think about it, so much of art is about body awareness, or at least gaze awareness. . .so faculty members, if any of any of this is applicable to your class work. . .don't make it a source of stress or anything, but there is just so much potential discussion surrounding these issues.— Phyllis a psychology professor at Shirley State College in Vermont who has organized a week of events focusing on this subject in Body Awareness.

If you are angry at me just say it. You don't have to Body Awareness. me. You can say: I'm feeling really angry right now Mom— Joyce<, Body Awareness.

I'm not angry. I'm surrounded by imbeciles. You don't even. . .you don't even read the dictionary! — Jared, Body Awareness.

body awareness . .do you ever wonder. . .like how many times your life is gonna totally change and then, like, start all over again? And you'll feel like what happened before wasn't real and what's happening now is actually. . — — Lauren, Circle Mirror Transformation. What do you want to be when you grow up — Avery
I am grown up. — Sam
The Flick

I was a very self-righteous 15-25 year old. Anyway, I wake up every morning and thank God I'm not a kid anymore.— Annie Baker, interview by April Ayers Lawson, June 5, 2014.

I feel like there's an obsession with pace right now in theater, with things being very fast and very witty and very loud, and I think we're all so freaked out about theater keeping audiences interested because everybody's so freaked out about theater becoming irrelevant.</i>— Ibid

I think growing up in a small town, the kind of people I met in my small town, they still haunt me. I find myself writing about them over and over again.— Annie Baker, Ibid

I feel drawn to the loser-genius characters that appear in some of your plays. Or, in other words, people with exceptional abilities who under-achieve. KJ in The Aliens is a gifted college dropout with mental illness. Jared in Body Awareness is an autodidact who (arguably) has Asperger’s and works at McDonald’s. — Annie Baker, Ibid

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Edward Albee
Annie Baker
Samuel Beckett
Anton Chekhov
Horton Foote
Brian Friel
Henrik Ibsen
David Mamet
Arthur Miller
Eugene O'Neill
Suzan-Lori Parks
Harold Pinter
G. Bernard Shaw
Sam Shepard
Tom Stoppard
Wendy Wasserstein
Tennessee williams
August Wilson

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